I’ve been hosting events since 2008, officially that is. Unofficially, I’ve been hosting events since 2005. I used to host small events like birthday parties and lunches till I was confident and good enough to host major events like gala dinners, product launches, road shows, grand openings etc.
Like anyone else, I always get the jitters before I step in front of a crowd but unlike before, I now know how to make it look like I own the mic, the event and my audience. Practise helps but it takes 6 of these attributes to be a great MC:
- OWN YOUR PERSONALITY. Personalities are so personal hence the word PERSONALity. You have your own unique personality which no other individual has. People can try to act or be like you but they could never BE you. Likewise, you cannot be someone else. Are you spontaneous, elegant, quick-witted, deadpan, brooding, intriguing, girly, womanly, manly, boyish? What’s your true personality type? The kind that comes across so naturally when you’re with the closest of friends. THAT’S the personality you OWN and you sell to the client because it’s your best and safest bet. You’re never going to have to struggle to be yourself! It takes away the stress of trying to keep up with an assumed personality when you’re standing in front of an audience for a couple of hours.
- BE THOROUGH. Unless you have a photographic memory I suggest you do your homework before and after meeting your client. Who is your client? How long have they been around? What do they want from their event? What do they expect from you? What is their end goal? Ask as many questions as you need to when you meet when with them. Never leave a meeting with a single doubt. You’re screwing yourself over with the lack of knowledge and insight. Clients love for you to take as much of an interest in them so milk it for every bit it’s worth. Get to know anything and everything you can about the event, the client and their guests. Bring that notebook or iPad along and don’t miss a thing.
- BE A FRIEND. It’s always better to someone they see as a friend. Sure, you’re providing a service but you can also offer them a friendship. Aside from doing your homework about the company and the event, get close to the people you have to work closely with. Find out about their kids, their dogs, their hobbies, their jobs, their spouses, their vacations and whatever else you can bring up in conversation. I’m not telling you to attack them with 20 questions when the formalities are out of the way, I’m just encouraging you to build a bond that goes beyond business. Relationships can be meaningful if you give them meaning. Don’t just be hired help, be someone they are fond of and like to see more of.
- SHOW UP EARLY. It’s nice to be punctual but showing up earlier than expected gives the client a great sense of relief. It takes away the trouble of them having to look at their watches hoping and praying that you will arrive on time. And as Murphy’s law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong,” So your showing up on time may have been necessary because no one can predict the future. We never know know who or what may surprise us on the day itself. Giving the client enough time to run through the changes with you and having enough time to familiarise yourself with the new script, spares everyone a significant amount of embarrassment.
- STAY COOL AS A CUCUMBER. This is before, during and after the event. Remember how I said that major changes could be made on the day itself? When they are, your job is to ensure the client that “you’ve got this”. Do not join the ‘stress party’. Do not give them reason to doubt your professionalism. If you should slip up when the mic is on, it’s OK! You’re human. Just pause and correct yourself. If you happen to trip on stage, crack a joke about how clumsy you can be and move on. There is no need to panic no matter how bad the situation. You are there to keep things under control. You’re like the stewardess who keeps her pokerface on even when she knows the plane is about to crash. Remember…CUCUMBER.
- GET YOUR PRONUNCIATIONS RIGHT! This is a pet peeve of mine. I cringe when I hear MC’s pronounce anything wrong, ESPECIALLY names. You don’t appreciate it when people mispronounce your name and you’d hate it even more if they did it publicly, so don’t put the next person through that either! Make the effort to check that you’ve got all your pronunciations right, if you’re unsure. The client may let it go once or twice but it won’t be long before they replace you with someone who knows that it’s KOR-LEEG (colleague) not KER-LIK or Warren BUFF-ET not BUFFAY.
- DO NOT HOUND YOUR CLIENT FOR PAYMENT. Yes, you’ve provided a service and they have to pay you but at least wait till they’ve missed their deadline before you start acting like a debt collector. Settle all payment arrangements before the event and only call to check in if they’re late. They do not need you to make them feel like bad paymasters. And if you’re a friend, you would give them some leeway. It makes the relationship a stress-free, comfortable one that everyone wants to invest in and make last.
I hope you appreciated my tips and feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need more help with your hosting skills. Cheers! Now go rock that mic right!